Category Archives: Spice Blends

Herb Salt

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Herb Salt

It’s spring in Southern Oregon.  The perennial herbs and plants have pushed through the soil and the chives are ready to bloom.  Lately, I’ve been experimenting with making my own flavored salts.  Last week it was a Serrano salt made with some leftover Serrano peppers that I had sitting in the fridge.  I liked the flavor but it did not have as much heat as I had hoped.  I will try again.  Next time with triple the amount of Serrano peppers.  I like heat and lots of it.  So, I look at it this way.  What is the point of Serrano salt if it does not set your taste buds on fire?

Early yesterday afternoon as I was tending to my pots of herbs on the back patio, I was inspired to make my own Herb Salt.  Buying pre-made flavored or herb salts can be ridiculously expensive and there was is no reason that I could not make it myself.  So I did just that.  I made my own Herb Salt.  My Herb Salt is a simple mixture of fresh picked sage, oregano, rosemary and kosher salt.  That’s it…

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Purple Sage

I just love the color of this sage.  Any variety of sage will do in the recipe for Herb Salt.  Just be sure to pick only the leaves and rinse and dry the leaves well.

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Rosemary

I use lots of rosemary in my kitchen.  It’s readily available for I have a large bush growing on the side of my home.  I pick fresh rosemary all year long and I use it many Mediterranean inspired dishes.   The needles of the Rosemary plant went into the salt mixture…

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Oregano

And finally, oregano…  I have plenty of fresh oregano growing in one of the big pots on my patio.  It’s now starting to take over and beginning to compete with the other herbs in the pot.  It may be time to start transplanting it or even giving some away to friends and neighbors.  Fresh picked oregano tastes fabulous in marinara sauces and other Italian dishes.  It also lends a nice flavor to my Herb Salt.

My Herb Salt is easy to make and can easliy adapted using other types of herbs.  I chose to use rosemary, sage and oregano this time.  I also have parsley, basil, thyme and tarragon that needs to be experimented with.  That’s for another day…

Sprinkle Herb Salt instead of plain sea salt on pork tenderloin, lamb chops or chicken before tossing on the barbecue or grill for a delicious flavor.  It can also be used in soups, stews and sauces.  So the next time you have some fresh herbs that need to to be snipped, be sure to make some Herb Salt.  Enjoy!  Tessa

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup kosher salt (coarse)
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed rosemary
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed oregano
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed sage leaves

Note:  You can use more or less herbs if you choose.  You can also change up the types and ratios if you want.

Begin by washing and drying the rosemary, oregano and sage.  Be sure to use only the leaves and not the stems.  Add salt and herbs to a food processor.  Pulse and then spread onto a small cookie sheet.  Bake in a 225 degree oven for about 35 minutes or until the herbs are dry.  Stir occasionally. Remove herb salt from oven and let cool.  Add herb and salt mixture back to food processor and pulse lightly until desired consistency.  I kept my herb salt a little coarse rather than fine. Store Herb Salt in tightly covered container in a dry place.  Makes about 1 cup of herb salt.

And a final note.  Be sure to save your leftover spice jars.  They can be washed, reused and filled again.  Just peel off the label, wash and dry well, fill with your new spice blend creation, and add a new label!

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A Winter Weekend in the Cascade Mountains and Chicken Lentil Soup

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Chicken Lentil Soup 

I love living in Southern Oregon.  One of my favorite things to do during the winter months is to visit the Cascade Mountains.  This year our family and friends stayed in some cabins up at Hyatt Lake over the weekend.  Hyatt Lake is about an hour drive from our home but in snowy weather, it may take twice as long.  There was at least 3 feet of fluffy snow on the ground and the temperature was a bone chilling 16 degrees.   The only way we could get up to our cabins was with four wheel drive pickup trucks for there was nearly 10 miles of narrow snow packed roads.

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A view up towards the summit.

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Along the edge of Hyatt Lake.  The lake was frozen over.  During the summer months, Hyatt Lake is known for its wonderful trout fishing and camping.

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A view across the lake.  The ice on the lake was only a few inches thick and covered with snow.  We would not dare walk out onto the lake for it was too risky and dangerous.

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Sunset in the forest.  It was eerily quiet.  The only noise that we heard was the snow dropping off the branches of the trees.  There were no birds, squirrels or any signs of wildlife. The birds either migrated south or are spending the winter in the valley below. Other animals such as black bear, skunks and squirrels are hibernating in their dens.  Deer, cougars and elk generally find their way down to the warmer lower elevations during the cold winter months.

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A view from the top of the mountain.  You can see the ski resort at Mount Ashland in the background.

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Snow covered Chinquapin Mountain. In late spring, when the snow has melted, Chinquapin Mountain is one of my favorite places to hunt for Morel mushrooms.  When I get some mushrooms this year, I’ll be sure to post some delicious Morel mushroom recipes.

After spending a cold day in the snow, my Chicken Lentil Soup is a perfect way to warm up. My Chicken Lentil Soup is made with locally grown organic green Laird Lentils, carrots, onions, celery, chunks of tender chicken and flavored with my homemade Garam Masala Spice Blend.  It’s easy to make, tastes delicious, and as an added bonus, it’s really good for you too!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Laird lentils (washed and picked over)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup carrots (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup celery (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Tbs Garam Masala spice blend
  • 1 12 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound cooked chicken (chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan with a lid, saute onion, carrots, celery and red bell pepper in olive oil.  Cook until onions are translucent and tender.  Add lentils, Garam Masala, tomatoes, garlic and chicken stock.  Cook on low heat until lentils are tender, about 30-40 minutes.  Add cooked chicken about 10 minutes before lentils are done.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Serve hot with crusty bread.  Makes about 4 servings.

*Note:  I used precooked chicken that I found in the deli section of my favorite store.  I added the chicken towards the end of the cooking process because I wanted the chicken to stay tender.

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Easy Garam Masala

Garam Masala

Garam Masala is one of my favorite spice blends that I have in my pantry.  It is a deliciously aromatic mixture of cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and nutmeg that brings an exotic taste to many dishes.  Garam Masala is an essential ingredient in traditional Indian cooking.  I learned about Garam Masala only a couple of years ago and I have been a complete fan ever since.  Garam Masala is generally made with whole spices, toasted and ground but, this recipe is a good substitute if you are in a pinch.  It’s easy to make and can be made with ingredients you already have on hand.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl.  Transfer to an air tight container.  Makes about 1/4 cup.

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